Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Killing Lincoln - by Bill O'Reilly & Martin Dugard

In Killing Lincoln, TV political analyst Bill O'Reilly presents the historical story of the assassination of our 16th President, Abraham Lincoln, in the format of a page turning thriller.  It takes the reader back to the final days of the Civil War in April, 1865.  It provides the background to understand why Lincoln's quest to reunite and heal a wounded nation was unpopular on many fronts.  It tells a story about one of the most complicated plots ever carried out against U.S. leaders and about the efforts, after the events on the evening of April 14, 1865, to bring all those responsible to justice.

Not the normally a history buff, I really enjoyed this book.  I must point out, however, that it is somewhat controversial.  Many historians have no tolerance for factual errors they identified in early editions.  For instance, there were mistaken references to Lincoln in the Oval Office, when the Oval Office didn’t exist until 1909.  Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth was credited with carving a “peephole in the back of the state box” when the theater’s acting manager, Harry Clay Ford, in actuality did so.  It was stated that Union General Ulysses Grant and Confederate General Robert E. Lee would not meet a second time, when in fact they did on April 10, 1865.  Some claim that the description of how assassination conspirator Mary Surratt was imprisoned, the spelling of the last name of the Ford’s Theater carpenter, and the number of times that “Our American Cousin” was staged at Ford’s Theater before Lincoln was shot were not entirely factual.  Others point out that a lot of the authors' supposed resources are not footnoted.  That said, in response, some corrections have been made to Killing Lincoln, including the references to the Oval Office, Grant and Lee’s meeting at Appomattox and the spelling of the Ford’s Theater carpenter’s last name.”

As with most non-fiction works, lots of critical praise for this book can be found, as can opposing subjective criticisms like political spin, stereotypical and cliche viewpoints, etc.  I'm not smart enough to debate the  historical accuracy or analyze political tendencies of a book like this.  For me it was a good read.  I learned a lot about the history and events related to Lincoln's assassination and really enjoyed doing so.  National Geographic has recently announced that they will be filming a documentary based on this book.  I certainly will try to watch it.

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